NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

New Evidence That Viruses May Play a Role in Alzheimer’s

Man looking out the window.
Viral species may have a role in Alzheimer’s disease biology.

Analysis of large data sets from post-mortem brain samples of people with and without Alzheimer’s disease has revealed new evidence that viral species, particularly herpesviruses, may have a role in Alzheimer’s disease biology.

Researchers funded by NIA made the discovery by harnessing data from brain banks and cohort studies participating in the Accelerating Medicines Partnership-Alzheimer’s Disease consortium. Reporting in the June 21 issue of Neuron, the authors emphasize that their findings do not prove that the viruses cause the onset or progression of Alzheimer’s. Rather, the findings show viral DNA sequences and activation of biological networks—the interrelated systems of DNA, RNA, proteins and metabolites—may interact with molecular, genetic and clinical aspects of Alzheimer’s.

“The hypothesis that viruses play a part in brain disease is not new, but this is the first study to provide strong evidence based on unbiased approaches and large data sets that lends support to this line of inquiry,” said NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes. “This research reinforces the complexity of Alzheimer’s disease, creates opportunities to explore Alzheimer’s more thoroughly and highlights the importance of sharing data freely and widely with the research community.”

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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